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Naturalism as Paranoia in Octave Mirbeau

Naturalism as Paranoia in Octave Mirbeau Robert Ziegler When Emile Zola embraces the therapeutic aims outlined by Claude Bernard in his Introduction à la médecine expérimentale, when he adopts the methodological rigor and medical idiom of the literary diagnostician, he acknowledges the inadequacy of existing art as an epistemological system. In his pretension to the role of moralist and healer Zola implicitly admits the failure of fictional narrative as a method of explanation. Because its theoretical foundations are set in science, Naturalism exhibits the paranoia which Cyndy Hendershot claims was "typical of fin-de-siècle European intellectuals." This kind of paranoia is characteristic of much late-nineteenth-century thinking and is connected, Hendershot argues, "to the increasing prevalence of scientific discourse throughout all social discourse and to the sense of inferiority experienced by non-scientists saturated with scientific terminology" (19). As hereditary flaws take the place of original sin and an unhealthy environment is cited to explain deviant behaviors once attributed to satanic influence, evil is pathologized and the psychologist replaces the directeur de conscience. The result, as Pierre Citti writes, is that "[l]e rôle tenu par le péché dans [le] roman [. . .] du XVIIIe siècle, la maladie et l'anomalie le tiennent chez les Naturalistes" (27). In http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French Forum University of Nebraska Press

Naturalism as Paranoia in Octave Mirbeau

French Forum , Volume 27 (2) – Feb 13, 2002

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University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 by French Forum, Inc.
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1534-1836
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Abstract

Robert Ziegler When Emile Zola embraces the therapeutic aims outlined by Claude Bernard in his Introduction à la médecine expérimentale, when he adopts the methodological rigor and medical idiom of the literary diagnostician, he acknowledges the inadequacy of existing art as an epistemological system. In his pretension to the role of moralist and healer Zola implicitly admits the failure of fictional narrative as a method of explanation. Because its theoretical foundations are set in science, Naturalism exhibits the paranoia which Cyndy Hendershot claims was "typical of fin-de-siècle European intellectuals." This kind of paranoia is characteristic of much late-nineteenth-century thinking and is connected, Hendershot argues, "to the increasing prevalence of scientific discourse throughout all social discourse and to the sense of inferiority experienced by non-scientists saturated with scientific terminology" (19). As hereditary flaws take the place of original sin and an unhealthy environment is cited to explain deviant behaviors once attributed to satanic influence, evil is pathologized and the psychologist replaces the directeur de conscience. The result, as Pierre Citti writes, is that "[l]e rôle tenu par le péché dans [le] roman [. . .] du XVIIIe siècle, la maladie et l'anomalie le tiennent chez les Naturalistes" (27). In

Journal

French ForumUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Feb 13, 2002

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